CHINA'S tap water is still not safe to drink despite the adoption, on Sunday, of stricter standards concerning drinking water quality, according to a Tsinghua University professor.
Tap water which is tested as qualified in the plants might be polluted during the delivery process, and the nation hasn't appointed any authorities to supervise the implementation of the new standards to ensure their complete adoption, Wang Zhansheng told China Central Television.
Therefore, Chinese people still have to rely on tap water purifiers and can't drink water straight from the tap, Wang said.
He said he had been involved in formulating the new standards, said to be as strict as those issued by the World Health Organization, but they were not expected to be fully met until 2015.
The standards were actually first adopted on July 1, 2007, after the nation amended its drinking water standards in 2006, but have not been well implemented.
Wang said another factor contributing to unqualified drinking water was the water plants' old-fashioned facilities and treatment rather than contamination in transmission.
"Many pollutants can't be removed under the current treatment," Wang told CCTV.
He suggested the nation raise water prices to cover the cost of improvements because he said people would be happy to pay what would be just an additional 0.30 yuan (US$4.70 cents) per a ton of water.
The government plans to invest 410 billion yuan before the end of 2015 to upgrade and construct urban water-providing facilities and promises to fulfil the new standards.
Experts say the investment is likely to solve major problems with tap water in urban regions, but they have questioned how smoothly the plan can be carried out as the funding will mainly come from local governments and adjustment of water prices that may have an impact on the public.
A recent report by the State Council, China's Cabinet, said that around one-fifth of tap water checked in cities and county seats last year would not have qualified if measured by the "new" standards. It also estimated water was not up to standard at nearly 14 percent of the nation's water sources.
"A major reason for substandard drinking water is that the water plants' facilities are old in China. More than 95 percent of them were built before the new drinking water standards were established," said Du Ying, a vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner.
Aging water pipes and inadequate management of storage facilities in urban communities are also causing further pollution to the water, said Du.
Meanwhile, the delay in enforcing the standards has given rise to public doubts and deepened mistrust in the system.
"The announcement of the new standards is pointless at present because they will not be genuinely implemented until 2015," Shao Mingbo posted on Sina.com
And a comment on Weibo.com was: "From the making of the new standards back in 2006 to its scheduled real implementation in 2015, we have to wait for almost 10 years."
Facing the criticism, Health Minister Chen Zhu said ensuring water quality was a systematic project that involves complicated processes at the water source, then the points of treatment, transmission and quality monitoring
According to figures provided by the NDRC, before the adoption of the new standards 83 percent of water plants nationwide produced qualified water, but only 79.6 percent tested safe after transmission.
By the end of 2015, 106 water quality indices, up from 35 previously, will be measured in all provincial capitals and municipalities.
The new standards also beef up checks for microorganisms, heavy metals and organic pollutants, Chen said.
Chen said at least 42 indices will be monitored in water quality checks in county-level cities by 2015. These regular checks will basically ensure the safety of drinking water, he said.